At the beginning of this year, I decided to undertake another major decluttering of our home. While we’d gotten rid of a huge amount of items back in the Fall of 2008, some clutter had started to slowly creep back in. Deciding to eliminate anything extraneous started innocently enough – I was putting away the Christmas ornaments when I decided to toss anything that was broken or just really unloved. As I whittled away at the ornaments, I realized that there were only a few that were really special – one that I remembered being given as a child from my grandparents, a few ornaments that I had received from a childhood friend, a couple of ornaments from special family members, and the ornaments my kids received for their first Christmases. Fairly quickly, I realized that I had very little sentimental attachment to most of them. So, I got the amount down to what would fit on our small tree.
Putting the small bin away in our closet, I realized we had a full bin of souvenir items left over from the 2010 Olympics. I brought that bin out into the living room and started purging, eliminating half of the box. I then thought to myself, why can’t I do this with the rest of our home? It would be so easy to just purge one drawer at a time, and eventually get down to a manageable number of belongings. So I started. A little bit at a time.
I started with sippy cup lids that had somwhere along the way lost their cups, and moved onto empty bubble bath bottles, a plethora of pens we would never use, and food that had been brought to our house by others with the best of intentions, but that we’d never looked at twice.
I started selling the last few remaining baby items, and I let go of the last of my youngest son’s cloth diaper stash now that he had been potty trained for 2 months. I decluttered the kitchen drawers, taking mismatched cutlery to the local thrift store, along with some cookbooks that I never used. I took a bunch of my own clothing and some costume jewellery to another thrift shop that benefits women in need. I gave a bunch of craft supplies to one of my friends for her daughter to enjoy, and I donated to the thrift shop a bunch of very loud, battery-operated musical toys that my kids received for Christmas. (Note: if you do not want my kids to open a gift consisting of an electric guitar and a drum set at your home, it is likely not something that I want to come live in my home.) I gave away some of my kids’ toys on craigslist, and sold a few outgrown baby clothing items.
I did recognize that it was not good enough just to purge things that were already living in my home, I had to stem the tide of things coming in the door as well. As my children broke glasses or dishes, I tossed them in the garbage can without a thought of buying more to replace them. As I wore holes in my socks and pants, I threw them away and stayed away from shops so that I wouldn’t be tempted to buy replacements. I began buying only groceries for the first couple of months of the year, and it quickly became a habit to not want to go shopping for more “stuff.”
I am now at the point where I want my cupboards to have room for food for my family, rather than unused and unwanted kitchen appliances. I am hoping to donate the last couple of small kitchen appliances in the next couple of weeks – I still have a bread maker and a large crockpot that aren’t getting any love. But I’ll be keeping my waffle iron and toaster.
So where are we now? Well, after 4 months, 2676 items that were here at the end of 2010 have left our home. Some of it was sold – I’ve made $550 selling items we are no longer using or wanting. At lot of things were given away, but a substantial amount was thrown in the trash.
It is worth noting that the majority of items that we threw away that weren’t desirable enough or in good enough condition to be donated were items that were given to us as gifts. My husband and I are lucky to have a very generous group of family, friends and co-workers in our lives (we were given 4 wedding showers and 3 baby showers for our first child) and so we have been gifted a huge number of things over the past 8 years. I think it is a hard lesson to realize that most of the things that are bought for people or given to others as gifts aren’t really wanted, and although thoughtful and considerate in intent, the buying of most gifts only perpetuates the cycle of waste.
I should note too that I haven’t disposed of anything of my husband’s without his explicit consent. We received some wine glasses for our wedding that I thought were fine, however, I didn’t realize that my husband thought they were hideous until he told me one day that “every time you use one of those wine glasses I secretly hope it gets dropped on the floor.” So the next day, I took them to the thrift shop. I didn’t tell him I was getting rid of them, but when I saw him open the cupboard and realize they were gone, he smiled.
My parents visited us a few weeks after I began our decluttering project and while they didn’t seem to notice that anything had left the house, one of the first things they mentioned when they arrived was that our place seems bigger. It is that feeling of space that is the ultimate goal of this project, to impart a feeling of peace through lack of clutter in our home. I’m hoping to double our original goal by the end of the year.